Health and safety thumbs-up for Ford

Health and safety thumbs-up for Ford

Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA) has received recognition from its global parent company once again, and it’s easy to see why – its work in the field of health and safety has been extraordinary.


FMCSA’s Struandale Engine Plant has been honoured for its outstanding work in health and safety in the prestigious Ford Motor Company President Awards. In addition to the plant’s achievement, there was special recognition for the company’s doctor as well as its HIV/Aids team.

Ford’s new global Safety Operating System (SOS), which is now firmly entrenched at the Struandale plant, has an innovative way of teasing out what needs to be done to ensure the health and safety of employees. It translates occupational health and safety standards into simple and clear actionable items using a process-based approach. Safety-critical factors based on actual work activity are defined, and these inputs are assigned to specific role-players. Ways of signalling any abnormality, as in the event of an accident, are incorporated to make it easier and quicker for those responsible to respond.

SOS makes use of tools and processes already in place at the plant, and is modelled on existing systems that have proven successful. The system is a long-term initiative that all employees can familiarise themselves with and provides a foundation for continuous improvement.

The Ford Struandale Engine Plant in Port Elizabeth has received local and international recognition for its employee wellness programme, as well as its pioneering supply chain wellness cluster. This includes awards from the Port Elizabeth Regional Chamber of Commerce/SA Business Coalition on HIV/Aids (as pictured), as well as the Global Business Coalition on HIV/Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.Occupational medical practitioner Dr Bonakele Qabaka, who is based at Ford in Port Elizabeth, was recognised for his unrivalled support of the new system. Dr Qabaka, who started at the Struandale plant two years ago, was actively involved in its implementation – sharing relevant health, safety and awareness information, and constantly challenging the team to do more. His role was also to assess the programme, and keep the team informed on any issues that could affect it.

Subsequent to receiving his award for Excellence in Health and Safety Leadership in the company’s global awards programme, he said: “It is an honour to receive this accolade. I strongly believe in ‘Batho pele’, meaning people first, and I am grateful that Ford has provided us with the platform that makes this possible.”

“Choose Life”
The company’s HIV/Aids team, meanwhile, received recognition for the manner in which it rolled out its HIV/Aids Workplace Programme at supplier work sites.

The team – labour relations manager Kurt Bothman, Sister Ivy Appolis, and wellness co-ordinators Serano Vardy and Siphiwo Dyani – did an extraordinary amount of work: establishing strategic partnerships with external organisations, developing the Supply Chain Wellness Cluster and related partnerships, facilitating the successful implementation of the programme at a growing list of supplier companies, and providing training to all associated stakeholders.

But let’s go back in time for a moment. Ford established an all-encompassing HIV/Aids and employee wellness programme at its Struandale plant in 2001. The programme has achieved great success, dramatically reducing the number of HIV/Aids infections and making huge strides in voluntary counselling and testing (VCT; but now known as HIV counselling and testing or HCT), and contributing towards the overall health and wellness of employees.

The programme was based on a Knowledge-Attitude-Practice-Behaviour survey, and set out to achieve 100 percent HCT status at the plant, as well as dealing with the treatability of HIV/Aids and associated diseases – all centred on the “Choose Life” slogan. A dedicated full-time wellness co-ordinator was appointed at the plant, and employee peer educators were trained to drive awareness and education. This is supported by numerous ongoing wellness programmes that consider the overall health, social and financial wellbeing of Ford employees and their families.

Supplier Wellness Cluster concept
In 2006, the company’s HIV/Aids Workplace Programme won a gold award in the American Chamber of Commerce’s annual Stars of Africa awards. It also received the overall Corporate Social Investment award. As a result of this success, the Ford Struandale Engine Plant launched a Supplier Wellness Cluster in conjunction with the Automotive Industry Development Centre (AIDC) and Aids Prevention and Health Promotion Workplace Programmes in Southern Africa (AWiSA) in 2009.

The FMCSA/AIDC/AWiSA Wellness Cluster is aimed at helping Ford’s automotive supplier companies respond to the pandemic by implementing comprehensive Wellness Workplace Programmes with a special focus on HIV and Aids – and, in doing so, improving their sustainability and global competitiveness.

Voluntary HIV/Aids counselling and testing is a cornerstone of Ford’s employee wellness programme, and is conducted throughout the year.Each year, the cluster sets out to partner with three supplier companies, assisting them in training managers, co-ordinators and peer educators who, in turn, drive the programme and the crucial HIV/Aids counselling and testing, while also addressing a wide range of employee and community health and wellness issues. As part of its role in the partnership, Ford provides “big brother” type support and related resources to these suppliers.

The initiative has achieved phenomenal success. By 2011, 10 automotive industry suppliers in South Africa had enrolled in the Wellness Cluster programme, with more than 2 000 employees volunteering to be tested for HIV and receiving potentially life-saving counselling in the process. The benefits to the workers and their families are immediate, with indirect benefits spreading throughout the community at large as awareness of how to combat and treat the disease continues to spread by word of mouth.

Extensive broader community projects have also benefited from this association, including numerous HIV/Aids havens and orphanages, local schools and crèches, as well as individual families.

For example, in Nelson Mandela Bay, the Ford/AIDC programme runs an annual T-shirt design competition at schools in the area in order to raise awareness of the pandemic among learners and their families. This is supported by a series of wellness and benefits days at the plant, and talks on health-related issues. FMCSA and the AIDC received global recognition for the Wellness Cluster programme from the Global Business Coalition (GBC) on HIV/Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria – taking second place in the Partnership/Collective Action category at the GBC Business Action on Health Awards in New York at the beginning of June 2011.

Bothman thanked the whole team for their hard work and dedication, adding that the latest award was a testament to the collective effort needed for such initiatives to succeed.

Initiatives such as SOS and the HIV/Aids Workplace Programme gives an indication of how much potential is in the Ford brand. Employees are well-versed in health and safety, and the individuals who made it happen have been well rewarded.

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